Do you know the name Paola Valverde? Probably not — but you should.
In a wine region dominated by well-known, pseudo-star winemakers — the Chilean-born Valverde deserves much more attention than she does for the work she's doing at Macari Vineyards. Yet, she flies under the radar perhaps more than any other local winemaker.
But, anonymity aside, her wines speak for themselves. And some of them speak quite loudly.
Macari has long produced one of my favorite roses, and the Macari Vineyards 2005 Rose ($12), which will be released in a couple weeks, continues that pedigree. A pretty salmon-orange-pink, its nose is lightly fruity — watermelons and ripe strawberries — with just a little wet stone. The palate is medium-light with fresh acidity and flavors that mirror the aromas with a hint of lime zest on a crisp, mouth-watering finish. Many 2005 roses are over-extracted and somewhat hefty, but this one avoids those pitfalls. Long Island rose at its finest.
Macari produces two different chardonnays (actually three if you count their nouveau-style chardonnay named "Early Wine") and both prove that Macari "gets it" when it comes to this common variety.
Macari Vineyards 2004 Estate Chardonnay ($15) is a lean, crisp white made 100% in stainless steel tanks. Vigorous swirling coaxes faint citrus and just-ripe pear aromas from the glass. Fresh and clean, the flavors are a little too simple and shallow, but are nicely balanced by acidity and minerality. A tart, kiwi-flavored finish is a highlight.
Much more "serious" and ambitious, Macari Vineyards 2003 Reserve Chardonnay ($25) skillfully walks the line between fruit and oak, offering the best of both. The nose is redolent of a toffee apple sprinkled with cinnamon spice. Creamy, but surprisingly light on the palate, this is one of the better barrel-fermented chardonnays on the North Fork. Its flavors are layered and complex — ripe and baked apple, butterscotch, vanilla, faint peach, baking spice — and the finish lingers with an alluring spice note at the end. The oak influence is obvious, but far from overdone. Make sure you don't over-chill this wine. Doing so will deaden the flavors and erase the nuances.
2005 has already proven to be a banner vintage in North Fork sauvignon blanc, largely because of its warm, dry growing season. Released this weekend, Macari Vineyards 2005 Sauvignon Blanc ($16) can stand proudly next to best. The nose is perhaps the most herbaceous-grassy around with lemon, grapefruit and stony accents. It's medium bodied and the grassiness isn't as overpowering on the palate, with lemon and grapefruit flavors taking center stage. Tantalizing acidity brings great balance and food friendliness. This wine manages to be juicy but delicate at the same time. Macari's other winemaker, Austria-native Helmut Gangl, made this wine with Valaverde.
Long Island actually has two female winemakers, not just one (Theresa Dilworth of Comtesse Therese) Get acquainted with Paola's wines and learn a bit about her in doing so.